Dr. Michelle Henry is a board-certified dermatologist and Harvard-trained Mohs surgeon who has been practicing dermatology in Manhattan for nine years and recently set up a practice, Skin & Aesthetic Surgery of Manhattan, in Midtown East. Dr. Henry is one of few Black dermatologists and even fewer who are skilled at practicing dermatology on Black and brown skin. She also specializes in high-risk skin cancer treatments, aesthetic surgery, and in Mohs micrographic, reconstructive, and cosmetic surgery. Among her accolades is earning her medical degree from Baylor College of Medicine in Houston, serving as the chief resident in her dermatology residency at Mount Sinai Hospital in New York City, and doing a fellowship in cutaneous oncology, Mohs micrographic surgery, and reconstructive surgery at Harvard Medical School’s Department of Dermatology at the Lahey Clinic in Boston, Massachusetts. Here, Dr. Henry talks about her practice, its research arm, and what’s exciting her in dermatology today.
BN: Tell us a bit about your background and experience.
Dr. Michelle Henry: I attended the Baylor College of Medicine in Houston, then I came to New York and I went to Mount Sinai Hospital for my residency, then I went to Harvard Medical School. After, I came back to New York where I’ve been working for nine years. I teach at Weill Cornell Medical College, and I lecture for a lot of major organizations. In my practice, Skin & Aesthetic Surgery of Manhattan located at 120 East 56th Street, I specialize in aesthetics, skin of color, hair restoration, skin cancer surgery and cosmetic aesthetic procedures.
BN: You specialize in skin of color and melanated skin. Talk to us about how this market is underserved and how your work differentiates you from peers?
MH: There’s definitely a shortage of Black dermatologists and an even smaller number of physicians who specialize in skin of color. A lot of people of color are referred to me, especially the more complex cases who have been burned with lasers, or who have been referred by doctors who may not be comfortable with treating Black and brown skin. There are many precautions that have to be taken. For example, darker skin types don’t show redness in the same way lighter skin types do, so there’s a misconception that it’s less sensitive, but it’s actually quite the opposite. We have to be more cautious with lasers and devices and with a lot of the cosmetic procedures that we do.
BN: Outside of medicine what else is your practice known for?
MH: In addition to seeing patients, we also do research via the Henry Research Group where we’re trying to develop laser protocols for skin of color. We of course do standard research for all skin types, but we are definitely targeting this segment which has a lack of research. A lot of companies are retrofitting their products, lasers and treatments for skin of color but when you retrofit you lose a lot of the nuance, and the service becomes less cutting edge. So we are trying to make these products and services so that all skin types can benefit from the technology advances that the industry is making.
BN: How is your research arm funded?
MH: We are funded through research dollars from participating companies. It’s difficult to enroll people of color in studies because of the [negative] history of research [within this community]. There’s a lot of justified anxiety around being a part of research trials. But when there is a principal investigator of color, and patients have an established relationship, it’s a lot easier for them to feel comfortable and to trust being enrolled in the studies. Many of my patients know me for years and they know I’m not enrolling them in anything I feel is unsafe. That’s really important because we need more diversity, not only in things such as authentic local research, but in the pharma industry and all the things that we do to make sure studies represent the population. My goal is that every single physician can feel safe using a laser or oral medication or cream on all patients because they know it’s been tested appropriately.
BN: Are there any technologies that you’re really excited about?
MH: The Aerolase Laser has always been at the forefront of lasers for skin of color. Then the PicoSure Laser has always worked on skin of color but we are working on developing even further protocols to make sure patients can really benefit from it.
BN: What are some of the top dermatologic concerns of women of color?
MH: Hyperpigmentation is definitely a big one. Acne and hair loss; I do a lot of hair restoration.
BN: What about on the product and ingredient side?
MH: There are different retinols and retinoids that are becoming more interesting. Tranexamic acid, both topically and orally are really popular right now. Different variations of formulations of vitamin C topically are really interesting, too.